The right to strike is fundamental and this May Day, PSAC is renewing the call for federal, provincial and territorial governments to introduce anti-scab legislation to protect the collective bargaining rights and the safety of all workers in Canada.
Scabs – or replacement workers – are hired by employers to replace workers who are on strike or who have been locked out. Scab labour interferes with the bargaining process, drags out labour disputes, and divides communities, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Banning the use of scab labour is a key promise in the recent Liberal and NDP confidence-and-supply agreement, and unions must continue putting pressure on the government to make this promise a reality.
This new anti-scab legislation would benefit workers covered by the Canada Labour Code, but we can’t stop there. No employer should be permitted to use scab labour, and it’s vital that we continue to fight for strong anti-scab legislation at all levels.
Set national benchmark with federal anti-scab legislation
After decades of pressure from unions, the Liberal government promised in its 2021 election platform to limit the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces during lockouts. But their commitment fell short because it failed to address the fact that almost 85 per cent of federal work stoppages are strikes, not lockouts.
The Liberal-NDP agreement promises to introduce anti-scab legislation by the end of 2023. PSAC will work to ensure this promise is met and that the new legislation is tabled as soon as possible.
The long-lasting scars of scab labour
Historically, the use of scab labour has created deep rifts in communities, many that have never healed. The Giant Mine strike of 1992 in the Northwest Territories is among the more painful examples of scab labour being used to break strikes. Scabs were also used by the multinational corporation BHP Billiton in its effort to break the strike of PSAC-UNW members at the Ekati diamond mine in 2006.
We’ve seen another ugly side of scab labour more recently in 2019. Scab workers were brought in to undermine the strike action of cleaners, PSAC-UNDE members who were employed by GDI Integrated Facility Services (GDI), a private contractor at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. PSAC later learned that the Department of National Defence incentivized the use of scab labour, stating in their contract with GDI that if work was unable to be completed due to a labour dispute, the contractor was required to complete the work using other personnel or risked losing payments.
Celebrate May Day
This May Day, let’s hold the government to account and urge them to introduce anti-scab legislation now to protect the democratic rights of workers, create safer workplaces, and ensure shorter labour disputes.
You can also join a May Day event or action near you or find a remote or hybrid event. We also look forward to seeing you at PSAC’s next national event about PSAC strikes won during the pandemic on May 17.